Canvassing Rural Areas

by Ben Holse (He/Him)


Canvassing Rural Areas: Door to Door Is Not the Same Everywhere

Canvassing rural areas present a unique set of challenges. You want to door knock as many homes in these areas as you can. Grassroots canvassing is the most effective method of volunteer voter contact so plan for the door-to-door canvas program to take time and resources. You also want to be conscious of your resources and canvas in a way that makes sense for both you and your canvassers. Below are some of our favorite grassroots campaigning suggestions to overcome the challenges of rural canvassing:

1. Think through your targets:  Open up your specs as wide as you can when pulling a list for sparsely populated areas to create the densest turfs possible – make sure you are being strategic while not under targeting.

2. Are there sidewalks?: Be cognizant of where sidewalks are when cutting turf. While it will not always be possible, you should try to avoid making canvassers walk on the roads, especially later in the day.

3. Plan around density:  Pick out your apartment complexes and dense population centers. Put these packets aside for your older canvassers and save the really sparsely populated packets for the younger, fitter canvassers.

4. Driving and walking: When you make canvass packets, take a look at which groupings of houses canvassers will have to drive to and include this information in the packet. If you don’t instruct canvassers that they need to drive to certain blocks of houses, they will likely assume that they must walk and waste valuable time.

5. Think doors and phones: Include phone numbers for members of each household in your canvass packs and ask the canvassers to call any houses that they are unable to reach on foot. While calling is a bit less effective, voter contact is still voter contact.

6. Train your team: Prepare your canvassers upfront about the turf and instruct them to bring good shoes and plenty of water. You should also try to have bottles of water available for canvassers at the staging location, particularly for when they turn in their packets.

7. Expect a lower contact rate: Inevitably your overall voter contact rate will be lower when canvassing rural areas. Take this into account in regard to fulfilling voter contact goals and plan your phone banks accordingly.

8. Use your time wisely: When cutting turf in sparsely populated areas, assume that there will be some households that will not fit into any turf and incorporate them into a phone list. It’s really not worth it for a canvasser to drive 10 minutes out of their way just to hit one door.

9. Pick the right time: When canvassing rural areas, it’s important to get to the doors when people are apt to be home, as the households in these areas are less likely to be canvassed a second time. Be cognizant of major sporting events, times when people are likely to be at church, or community activities and avoid scheduling your canvasses during those times.

10. Don’t rush: You have driven out to this community be patient and have a conversation take your time and talk to folks this is not a lit drop it is a canvas take your time and have a good conversation. 

11. Follow up: Code voters on level of support and keep notes on the issues voters care about.  Have a plan on how you will follow up with voters via mail, phone, email, or text. Relationships matter and having good follow up can win over voters.
12. Where the streets have no name: Often neighborhoods may not be marked roads may not be as clear. Try and find up to date maps but this may not be possible. 

13. Be careful: In general, people who live in a rural area are less likely to expect a random visitor, so be sure to exercise caution. Don’t canvas alone no matter the area always canvass with a buddy.  There may not be streetlights so it will get darker earlier.  Similarly, people in the rural areas are more prone to let their dogs run free, so be cognizant when approaching the door. 

Need tips for canvassing rural areas? Drop us a note